“There’s a rare kind of perfection in The Beast of Yucca Flats — the perverse perfection of a piece wherein everything is as false and farcically far-out as can be imagined.”–Tom Weaver, in his introduction to his Astounding B Monster interview with Tony Cardoza
DIRECTED BY: Coleman Francis
FEATURING: Tor Johnson
PLOT: Joseph Javorsky, noted scientist, defects to the United States, carrying with him a briefcase full of Soviet state secrets about the moon. Fleeing KGB assassins, he runs onto a nuclear testing range just as an atom bomb explodes. The blast of radiation turns him into an unthinking Beast who strangles vacationers who wander into the Yucca Flats region.
- The Beast of Yucca Flats can always be found somewhere on the IMDB’s “Bottom 100” list (at the time the review was composed, it occupied slot #21).
- All three of the films Coleman Francis directed were spoofed on “Mystery Science Theater 3000“.
- Tor Johnson was a retired Swedish wrestler who appeared in several Ed Wood, Jr. movies. Despite the fact that none of the movies he appeared in were hits, his bestial face became so iconic that it was immortalized as a children’s Halloween mask.
- All sound was added in post-production. Voice-overs occur when the characters are at a distance or when their faces are obscured so that the voice actors won’t have to match the characters lips. Some have speculated that the soundtrack was somehow lost and the narration added later, but shooting without synchronized sound was a not-unheard-of low-budget practice at the time (see The Creeping Terror, Monster A-Go-Go and the early filmography of ). Internal and external evidence both suggest that the film was deliberately shot silent.
- Director Coleman Francis is the narrator and appears as a gas station owner.
- Per actor/producer Tony Cardoza, the rabbit that appears in the final scene was a wild animal that wandered onto the set during filming. It appears that the feral bunny is rummaging through Tor’s shirt pocket looking for food, however.
- Cardoza, a close friend of Francis, suggests that the actor/director may have committed suicide in 1973 by placing a plastic bag over his head and inhaling the fumes from his station wagon through a tube, although arteriosclerosis was listed as the official cause of death.
- The film opens with a topless scene that lasts for only a few seconds; it’s frequently clipped off prints of the film.
- The Beast of Yucca Flats is believed to be in the public domain and can be legally viewed and downloaded at The Internet Archive, among other sources.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: Tor Johnson, in all his manifestations, whether noted scientist or irradiated Beast; but especially when he cuddles and kisses a cute bunny as he lies dying.
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Coleman Francis made three movies in his lifetime, all of which were set in a reality known only to Coleman Francis. His other two films (The Skydivers and Night Train to Mundo Fine [AKA Red Zone Cuba]) were grim and incoherent stories of despairing men and women in desolate desert towns who drank coffee, flew light aircraft, and killed off odd-looking extras without finding any satisfaction in the act. Though his entire oeuvre was more than a bit bent by his joyless outlook on life, his natural affinity for the grotesque, and his utter lack of attention to filmic detail, this Luddite tale of an obese scientist turned into a ravening atomic Beast survives as his weirdest anti-achievement.
Trailer for The Beast of Yucca Flats with commentary from director Joe Dante (Trailers from Hell)
COMMENTS: Touch a button on the DVD player. Things happen onscreen. A movie Continue reading 59. THE BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS (1961)